Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fingers And Toes

Let's look at some words relating to fingers and toes.

palec - finger; toe

"Palec" is probably used most often to mean "finger" but can also mean "toe" (sort of like "dedo" in Spanish or "doigt" in French).

Here are the declensions for "palec."  The first value is singular and the second is plural.

nominative - palec, palce
genitive - palca, palców
dative - palcowi, palcom
accusative - palec, palce
instrumental - palcem, palcami
locative - palcu, palcach
vocative - palcu, palce

Here are all the fingers described:

kciuk - thumb
palec wskazujący - index finger
palec środkowy - middle finger
palec serdeczny - ring finger
mały palec - little finger


odcisk palca - fingerprint
trzymać za kogoś kciuki - keep one’s fingers crossed for someone
wytykać kogoś palcami - to point the finger at somebody
Moje palce są zimne jak lód - My fingers are cold as ice
pstrykać palcami - to snap one's fingers
wskazywać palcem - to point
liczyć na palcach - to count (off) on one's fingers
mieć lepkie palce - to have sticky fingers

Some derivative words:

palcować - to finger (verb)
palcowanie - fingering (noun)
palcówka - musical finger exercise, fingerfucking (vulgar) (noun)
palczak - fingerling (noun)

Let's not forget the toes.  Even though "toe" uses the same word, it can be differentiated by adding "u nogi (stopy)" or looking at the context.


duży palec (u nogi) - big toe
mały palec (u nogi/stopy) - little toe
stawać na palcach - to stand on one's toes
wspinać się na palce -to stand on one's toes
stąpać/chodzić na palcach - to walk on tiptoe

And also:

paznokieć - fingernail, toenail

Here are the declensions for "paznokieć."  Once again, the first value is singular and the second is plural.

nominative - paznokieć, paznokcie
genitive - paznokcia, paznokci
dative - paznokciowi, paznokciom
accusative - paznokieć, paznokcie
instrumental - paznokciem, paznokciami
locative - paznokciu, paznokciach
vocative - paznokciu, paznokcie


obcinać paznokcie - to cut one's nails
obgryzać paznokcie - to chew one's nails
piłować paznokcie - to file one's nails
paznokieć u nogi - toenail

There also exists the word "paznokciowy" (adjective meaning "pertaining to a finger/toe nail"), where one can see the relation to the word "kciuk" ("thumb").

Mixing It Up In Polish, Part 3

This post has been consolidated and moved to here.  Apologies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Music, Mood and Backgrounds: Strój

"Strój" as a root seems kind of synesthetic.  It dances back and forth between different ambient sensory domains.

"Strój" in itself, as a noun, means "dress, attire" or, in the musical sense "tune" or "key."  It is also the second person singular imperative form of verb "stroić," which means "to dress up" or "to tune."


strój ludowy - national costume
strój kąpielowy - swimsuit
strój plażowy - beach clothes
strój sportowy - athletic wear
strój wieczorowy - evening wear
strój wizitowy - formal wear
strój żałobny - funeral clothes

Other derivative words:

strojnie - smartly, stylishly (as in "smartly dressed" - "strojnie ubrany")
strojnisia - fashion victim, stylish dresser
strojniś - clotheshorse
strojny - dressy, chic
strojowy - tuning (as in "widełki strojowe" - "tuning fork")

"Nastrój" means "mood, state of mind" or "atmosphere, ambiance" but the verb "nastrajać/nastroić" means "to tune" as in tuning an instrument, tuning a radio, etc.  It also can mean "to adjust."  "Nastrój" is also an imperative form (second person singular) of this verb.  So here the implication is that your mind is "tuned" in a certain way?  I wonder if there is some sort of color implied to complete the synesthesia here?  I find interesting the interplay in the Polish language between music and mood.  But "-strój" as a root seems to imply some kind of background that sets the scene for the particular environment, as you can see in these other words:


uroczysty nastrój - solemn mood
w dobrym nastroju - in a good mood
w złym nastroju - in a bad mood

Other derivative words:

nastrojowy - romantic
nastrojowość - romantic atmosphere

"Ustrój" means "system."  The verb "ustrajać/ustroic" means "decorate, adorn."  So I suppose the imperative form "ustrój" implies that your ideological framework is somehow "adorned" with a practical application?


ustrój polityczny - political system
ustrój biologiczny - biological system

Other derivative words:

ustrojowy - systemic (the adjective form of "ustrój)
ustrojstwo - contraption, gadget

"Wystrój" means "decoration" or "décor."  It is also an imperative form (second person singular) of the verb "wystroić," which means "to get dressed up/spiffed up." "Wystrojony" is an adjective meaning "dressed up."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Polish Language Learning Recommendations

In my last post, I talked about many of the books I have used in my Polish studies.  I've also done various posts on different sites on the Internet (pay sites and free sites) that are good for learning Polish.  Out of all of these, which would I recommend the most? Depends on whether you want comprehensive or cheap. And all bets are off on the books if you are actually in Poland--you'll find a whole different palette there.  But at least the websites I mention here will be available there.  You might want to download any .pdf files you find because you never know when they might disappear off the Web.

Cheap (Or Even Free!):

Each one of these cheap options has a free option as well, and some of the best choices are free.  It is always best to get stuff from more than one source to diversify.

Text--Polish in 4 Weeks Part I.  To go even cheaper, get whatever you can find at the thrift store that is comparable.  For free, you can use the University of Pittsburgh's basic first-year materials.  You can probably find some basic lessons on YouTube or through a search engine, but you might not find anything comparable to a good first-year text.  You can also try the free Foreign Service Institute course; the Polish text is here at the FSI site, but unlike other languages, they don't have audio along with the text.

Vocabulary--Anki (here is a list of Polish decks to choose from, including the BIG one I helped work on; you have to download the free program to use them) and Internet Polyglot, supplemented with any texts you have (you can always enter more words yourself into an Anki deck).  Free.

Audio--Real Polish online for free; also Polish in 4 Weeks (but make sure you get one with the CDs).  Or you can read this post for information on how to get free audiobooks at along with accompanying text and translation.

Written narratives--Wikipedia Method and Real Polish.  Free.

Grammar--go with the free Oscar Swan grammars online (basic and comprehensivedownload them because who knows how long they'll be available). (note...the comprehensive one is no longer available).

Dictionary--Larousse or whatever else you can find cheap...most of the pocket dictionaries are pretty much interchangable.  Buy the books at a thrift store if possible.  Or for free, use this dictionary online; it only goes in one direction (Polish-English), but you can look up words in English to be translated into Polish by using the search function of your browser or of Adobe Acrobat.  You can also find Polish-English dictionaries through search engines online, but I'm not all that crazy about them...mostly they are only search text boxes that just come up with words.  And Google Translate probably does a better job of this than most of them and also gives you pronunciations (and translations into and from multiple languages).


Texts--both Polish in 4 Weeks books (Part I and Part II) for first exposure, the dense Teach Yourself Polish for in-depth treatment, and any other text(s) for comparative treatment.

Vocabulary--Anki (see entry above for more info) and Internet Polyglot, supplemented with any texts you have (you can always enter more words yourself into an Anki deck).  Though these are free, they are probably the best vocabulary learning sources you will find.

Audio--Pimsleur CDs (get the comprehensive version), Real Polish (you can buy the supplemental materials online for extra instructional support) and PolishPod101 (subscription service online).  I wouldn't recommend spending a ton of money on Rosetta Stone.

Written narratives--Polish in 4 Weeks (Part I and Part II), Wikipedia MethodReal Polish.

Grammar--basic and comprehensive Swan (buy his book for moral support if you use the free stuff a lot), and Polish An Essential Grammar.

Dictionaries--Larousse for quick-and-dirty, Kosciuszko for under-the-hood.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Arsenal

Apologies in advance (and minus two demerits) for using militarized terms as metaphors here...but here is my "arsenal" of the weapons of mass destruction I have in book form for slaying the Polish language dragon (OK, minus ten demerits).  I also have a number of instruction books in other languages as well; you can see a glimmer of some of these on the left side.

I also have to admit that this post (and my blog in general) has a bias towards learners who are learning  Polish from a vantage point of already speaking English.  But that's not completely my bias, it also exists on the Internet in general, from what I have seen.  I've sure there are other books that cover Spanish to Polish, or Hindi to Polish, etc.  I haven't done much to seek them out.  More apologies and demerits.

Also, yet more apologies and demerits for the fact that I really thought this was going to be a quick and easy post; just a little blurb with pics of my Polish instruction books.  Nope.  This ended up being another post from hell, due to my constant obsessive need to dredge the sea floor for reassuring details.  That huge chunk of time this month without any other blog posts reflects me working on this post.  I suppose that helps keep me from being that person who is constantly dragging around a worn one-eyed stuffed bunny.

Apologies and demerits out of the way, here are the books:

I probably have missed a few books because I have some scattered somewhere else, but this is the core of the books I am using for my Polish Language studies.  Some of them I use a little, some of them I use a lot, and some I hardly use at all.  Many of them I simply picked up over the years in used book stores.  This explains why I have multiple introductory texts, but actually having multiple sources of introductory instruction has been very useful to me, because when I have gotten stymied on a topic, I have been able to see how different authors approach the particular subject, and looking at the different approaches helps my learning.

After an early period where I went through the first few chapters of many of the lessons in the texts sequentially, I evolved a style where I just randomly picked out chapters to study or looked up topics that I was interested in at the time based on things I had run across.

Here is a closer picture of the books on the right-hand side.  I'm going to describe them from right to left rather than the usual left to right because that is how I have them ordered, for the most part.  I'll also provide links to the books on Amazon (or elsewhere) when I can find them there so you can see them (and even order some if you want). The first book on the right is the one that started it all for me.  It is called "How To Say It In Polish" and is a book that is an excellent phrase book as well as having good vocabulary collections grouped for everyday usage.  I picked this up several years ago and never looked at it for quite a while.

The next two books are the "Polish In 4 Weeks" books (Part I and Part II).  I got the first book a long time ago (it was probably my second instructional text).  There are good, straightforward treatments of the concepts presented, and good narratives provided on CD with readalong text.

"Among Poles" was a cheap thrift-store purchase.  Looks decent, but I've mostly only used it for comparison on topics.  There is also a "Part II" book which I don't have.

"First Year Polish" by Oscar Swan is a decent first-year text, which I haven't used much because it either has no CD of the narratives or it didn't come with the copy I have.  But it is fairly comprehensive, and has a good breadth of vocabulary.  This was a definite score for me: it still has the ninety-nine cent price tag on it from the used bookstore where I bought it.

I bought "Cześć, Jak Się Masz", Book Two solely because my first Skype tutor demanded I do so (the whole process with her insisting that I get the book and me begging not to because I already have several texts was kinda hot).  She assessed my linguistic ability and determined that I should study at the A2 level rather than A1, so she told me to get the second book.  It's a good book, but really expensive (at least in the US, maybe cheaper in Poland).  You can also get Book One.  It would be so awesome if they republished it with Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You" drawing on the cover.

"Język Polski Dla Cudzoziemców" is mostly a book of exercises (at least the one I have...maybe there is an accompanying text).  I've browsed through it but haven't used it much.  I saw it on Ebay and it was in the twenty-dollar range, but didn't sell for about three cycles, so I made an offer of about fourteen bucks and bought it.

"Mastering Polish" is a good general survey book that starts with a deeper vocabulary than your average survey text and has a CD to accompany the chapter narratives.  The best value for me was the audio with a read-along and I also used it comparatively.

There are two "Teach Yourself" book franchises (maybe more, but these two are the ones I know about).  The first "Teach Yourself Polish" is the blue book in the picture and was my first real textbook-type book.  It was a thrift store purchase but eventually lost pages, so I bought another one (I've found all of these "Teach Yourself" books I have for any language have really crappy binding).  It's main value is in its density, which makes it a little more tedious, but it is packed with concepts.  It is a very detailed text and probably packs two years of survey course into one paperback text.  Another great value is its excellent index in the back which allows you to look up exactly where in the book a particular concept is discussed.

The other "Teach Yourself Polish" is a standard meat-and-potatoes survey text with a CD of read-along narratives.  I've used this a lot because the explanations are straight-forward and the narratives are easy to follow

"Polish An Essential Grammar" is probably one of the best grammars you will find at a relatively decent price in English.  It has a fairly moderate treatment of most important grammatical concepts (though there is some stuff I wish it would provide more depth on).

"Basic Polish" is by the same author as the above tome, but is a workbook.  It has some very useful exercises.

"Polish Verbs & Essentials Of Grammar" is simply a more comprehensive version of the free Oscar Swan grammar available online.  I bought it mostly because I've used his free stuff online so much that I figure I owed him at least a few bucks.

I bought "Język Polski Kompendium" in Poland.  It looks like it is comparable to "Polish An Essential Grammar" only more dense.  Haven't used it much, except to see if I can find better treatments of a grammatical subject than I can find in any of the other grammars.

Here is a closer view of the other half of the books.

I haven't really used the book "Gramatyka -- Składnia" at all. Here's a picture of a sample page that demonstrates why.

I think I bought it online, but upon perusing it, it looks like it relies a lot on some obtuse brand of funky phrase structure grammar symbolism and heavy descriptions of theoretical syntax which is definitely beyond the pale for the average language learner. Avoid this book like the plague unless you are going for a Nobel prize.  But if you dare, here is a link that might be a .pdf file of it (I'm not sure if it is the same book as I haven't checked it out).

"301 Polish Verbs" is a good treatment of verbs and their conjugations, but it has some surprising omissions.  Still, there is an index in the back where you can find out where in the book verbs with the same stem are conjugated, which is useful.  For a more complete discussion on verb conjugation, see the sources in my post on Polish verb conjugation.

"Larousse English-Polish Polish-English Dictionary" is a good intro or pocket dictionary.  Don't expect any in-depth lexicology, stem history, or examples, and understand that you will only get basic definitions and many words will be omitted.

"The New Kosciuszko Foundation Dictionary" (2 volumes) is a more in-depth dictionary with some lexicology and a medium number of examples.  I wouldn't characterize it as an interpreter's dictionary, or comparable to the OED, but it's a much-better-than-average comprehensive tome.  Still, it has some surprising omissions, particularly in the realm of adjectives and adverbs formed from verbs (I guess the assumption is that if you know the verb and the rules, you know how to make the derivative words).

"A Treasury Of Polish Aphorisms" is just what it says...a collection of short, pithy sayings that tend to verge toward the idiomatic and the poetic.  It's good exposure to artistic and whimsical linguistic constructions.

There are a few children's books on the left side that I bought in Warsaw, and I won't really go into detail on them.  I had this goofy and misguided thought that having children's books would help me "learn as a child does."  Wrong approach.  Don't do it.  Go for adult instructional books.  First of all, these books won't expand outward from your compendium of basic human needs.  You'll be doing the pee dance because you won't have learned how to ask where the bathroom is, and you'll go hungry looking at the menu.  Second of all, do you really need whimsical kid concepts?  Do you need to know about how to make the magic fairy appear, how to trick an ogre, or how to tame the friendly dragon?  Do you need to know all the different verbs for noises animals make (verbs are hard enough to learn without adding relatively useless ones to your vocabulary)?  No, you don't.  You need to know where to frenetically dash when you're cresting a puke.

But wait, there's more!  Here is some more stuff I gathered up scattered around different places in my house:

I'll go from right to left again (pardon the melodica, it is just propping the books up on the shelf).  The first one is my volume of "Pimsleur Comprehensive Polish" CDs.  It's a little pricey, but definitely worth the investment, and much better than Rosetta Stone, IMHO.  You don't need any accompanying text as the recordings are self-contained and self-explanatory.  The audio uses spaced repetition principles which assist in quick learning.

The next book is "The Oxford Picture Dictionary (English/Polish)", which has pictures of items by category and says what they are in both English and Polish.  Lots of nouns.

My final gem I'm going to talk about is old-school.  It's "A New Polish Grammar" from 1962.  I think I picked it up on Ebay for pretty cheap.  It is very comprehensive and is not only a grammar book, but also a text covering what I would guess most texts covering first and second year Polish cover and maybe beyond.  I've used it a good deal.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Some Games In Polish

It helps to know the terminology of games you like to play when you are in a foreign country.  Here are  some terms in Polish for a few games:

Chess (szachy):
King - król (K)
Queen - hetman (H) [sometimes also "dama" or "królowa"]
Rook - wieża (W)
Bishop - goniec (G)
Knight - skoczek (S)
Pawn - pion (P)
Checkmate (mate) - szach mat (mat)
Stalemate - pat
Check - szach
Roszada - castling

Don't ask me yet about the Scheveningen Variation or the Fried Liver Attack.  I'm not there (linguistically) yet.

Backgammon (tryktrak):
(Backgammon) checker - pion
Dice - kostki
Doubling cube - kostka dublująca

Playing cards (carty do gry):
Spades - pik
Clubs - trefl
Hearts - kier
Diamonds- karo
Ace- as
King - król
Queen - dama
Jack - walet, jeździec
Joker - dżoker

Blackjack (gra w oko)
(The) deal - rozdanie

Bridge (brydż)
bez atu - no trump

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Today's Study Card--May 8, 2013

Most days I make myself a "study card."  Sometimes I make more than one.  Sometimes I do a separate one for verbs because verbs seem to be about ten times harder than other words for me to learn.  I'll write the study words for the day on the card, fold the card in half, and use it as a flash card, trying to guess the English translations of the Polish words first, then trying to guess the Polish translations of the English words, while covering up the words below with my fingers (or the words above if I am going up).  I might go randomly instead of in order, but my goal is to learn the words the best I can.

So this is today's study card, or at least the first one of the day.  Usually these are the words I am having the hardest time with from my Anki study deck.  For some reason, these all seem to be adjectives and adverbs today.  That's not always the case; they can be any part of speech.  Nouns seem to be the easiest to learn, as a general rule.  Maybe that's because an object can be pictured.  But even abstract nouns are easier than verbs.  Verbs seem to be the hardest.  Usually I will make separate cards for just verbs.

I always "learn" the words and then find that a month later I will have forgotten some of them.  So that's where spaced repetition comes in, to put them at the proper spacing.  All of these words are words that I supposedly "learned" previously.  But I suspect the problem is not one of memory storage, it is one of memory retrieval, because often the stuff I am searching for will just suddenly pop into my head.

Then at some point I try to collect the cards from the past week or two, go over them again, and pick out the hardest words that I am still having trouble with and put them on new cards.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sto Lat!

It was one hundred years ago this month that my Polish ancestors came to the United States.  Sto lat!

On May 17, 1913, my grandmother, her brothers and sisters, and my great-grandparents left Liverpool, England aboard the "S. S. Carmania."  They arrived at Ellis Island on May 26, 1913, and set off for Massachusetts shortly thereafter.  By the 1920s, they had settled in and around Holyoke and Chicopee in Massachusetts, and my grandmother [after marrying my grandfather] later settled in Enfield, Connecticut (in Scitico) where my mother grew up and I lived when I was a small child.  My brother was born at the nearby hospital in Stafford Springs, at the same hospital where my mother was born, and he was delivered by the son of the doctor who delivered my mother.

Most of my grandmother's brothers and sisters stayed in the Springfield, Massachusetts/Enfield, Connecticut area.  The oldest was Uncle Polek, whose real name was Hipolit. My grandmother and most of her brothers and sisters changed their names to Americanized names from their original names.  I think the only ones who didn't were the two oldest, Hipolet and Kunegunda [Aunt Kunda].  Some of them even changed their birthdays!  Teofila became Theresa, Stefania became Stella and later Connie, my grandmother Wiktoria became Vivian, Anna Josefa became Irine, Władislaw became Eddie and later Walter, and Katarzyna became Katherine (Kitty).

They had three older siblings born in the same area in Poland, Marjanna, Jan and Stanisław.  I have no idea if they died before their family left for Poland or if they decided to stay behind.  I have not found death records for them, but my best guess is that they died during their childhoods.  Maybe, though, they stayed behind and had Polish families.  The three oldest were born in Ubiad [where my great-grandfather Piotr was from], and the rest were born in Słowikowa.  Both of these towns are just a few miles away from each other, a little bit northeast of Nowy Sącz.  I visited these towns when I was in Poland, and did some genealogical research in church archives in Nowy Sącz and Tarnów.  Here is some more information on my Polish genealogy quest.

Here is a picture of my grandmother and her sisters from a Polish-American newspaper dated October 31, 1942.  From the best I can translate, the caption reads: "Photograph of the reunion of six sisters, sent to us by Mrs. Roman Anielisko [actually the correct name is "Amelisko", changed from the original Polish spelling of "Ameliszko"], who lives in Springfield, Mass.  Mrs. Amelisko writes to us submitting this photograph, she is a reader of this newspaper since age 12, and thanks to the newspaper 'Journal For All' managed to find a cousin who she thought was missing in Poland, and found him in the Polish Army in England. All the sisters are married and live in various parts of our country.  In the month of September they left for family fun at a so-called "Family Re-Union" at the home of Mrs. Druzan who lives in Detroit, Mich.  In the photograph, starting in the first row from the left side to the right side:  Mrs. Fred Arthur [Aunt Connie] from Detroit, Michigan, Mrs. John Dubiel from Boston, Mass. [Aunt Kitty], Mrs. Earl Dugas from Scitico, Conn. [my babcia], Mrs. Roman Amelisko from Springfield, Mass. [Aunt Kunda], Mrs. James L. Breese from Santa Fe, New Mexico [Aunt Irine], and Mrs. Joseph Druzan from Detroit, Mich. [Aunt Theresa]."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Colonia Santa Rosa, A Polish Refugee Camp In Mexico

Shortly after Poland became involved in World War Two, the Soviets invaded and took over the eastern part of Poland.  Many Poles were subsequently expelled to Siberia, especially from the former eastern part of Poland that is known as the Kresy Wschodnie or "Eastern Borderlands" that was annexed by the Soviets and has comprised a large portion of mostly Ukraine and Belarus since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

But some Poles were relocated to...Mexico.  There was an unlikely refugee camp called Colonia Santa Rosa that was located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato and was populated by people forcibly removed from Poland.  Some of the refugees were only given a half an hour to gather their belongings before their odyssey that deposited them in an unfamiliar land across the ocean.

Most of the Polish refugees who were sent to the camp were moved to Mexico in 1943.  The first refugees were relocated from Polish refugee camps that had formed in India, many of them arriving via Iran, with a stopoff in Australia.  The first arrivals were originally transported to California, but due to the desire of the United Stated to maintain good relations with Stalin's regime, they were hastily relocated to Mexico.  A large component of Colonia Santa Rosa was made up of orphans and there was a Catholic orphanage that was set up at the site with hundreds of children.  The camp was financed by Polish-American relief organizations to avoid a financial burden on Mexico, and Poles were restricted to the camp's boundaries and not allowed to leave.  Still, their standard of living at the Mexican camp was much better than many other Polish refugee camps around the world due to the support of the Polish-Americans.  The camp became a microcosm of Polish cuture and there was a great deal of effort devoted to preserving the Polish way of life even though the refugees were physically thousands of miles away from their homeland.  Colonia Santa Rosa existed as a Polish refugee camp until 1945, whereupon it dispersed and the refugees scattered to different regions.  Many of them relocated in the United States, Canada or Great Britain, and some eventually returned to Poland.